The Busy and (Somewhat) Fit Developer
For a long time in my other career as a strength & conditioning coach, I was bit...detached from reality. I had the luxury of not having many responsibilities other than coaching and working on my own fitness. So while I felt sympathy for those who couldn’t “find the time” to workout, I never truly understood.
Well, the last 7 months have been a bit different. In addition to programming 40+ hours a week, coaching kept me tied up another ~15 hours per week. Many days, there was just. no. time. to work out. I really get what my clients have been going through all this time now.
Despite being busier than ever though, I still found the time to train, just not nearly as often as I would have liked. While my body composition took a hit (Portland’s beer shares a big part of the blame for that), I am super pleased to have maintained 90%+ of my all time bests on many of my lifts, and am coming out feeling like a still-somewhat-fit-person.
The first thing I had to do was simply get comfortable with the fact that a) my fitness wasn’t going to be at its peak, b) and that’s okay. It’s a big adjustment for someone who made fitness their first priority for a decade. But fitness isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Once I got over the fact that there is a lot of gray space between perfect fitness, and utter sluggish death, I was much happier.
Additionally, despite indulging on the weekends, I actually ate pretty well during the week. Meal prep was huge. I did a huge cook every Sunday, with enough food for lunch and dinner for Monday through Friday. Most weeks, I made a big batch of two different kinds of meats, two different kinds of veggies, and two different kinds of starchy carb. Then, I mixed and matched these things in different combinations throughout the week. It was plenty of variety for me.
I also made sleep a priority. Not only will too-little-sleep contribute to weight gain, but it’s just simply impossible to stay sharp through 11 hour days without it. And while I’ve often been tired, it definitely wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
So what was the training program I followed? Well, a big portion of maintaining some of my fitness wasn’t a program at all, it was simply switching to riding my bike more often. Half an hour of cycling to and from downtown each day adds up to an extra 2.5 hours of moderate cardio a week, and makes a difference. Plus, there’s no need to “find time” for it, other than simply adding a few minutes to your commute time (though the difference between that and the bus was negligible for me).
In the gym, I simplified my routine a great deal, including only the basics. It’s been a steady diet of squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups, and not a whole lot else for 6 months. I figured that sticking to lifts like these would be my best bet for remaining a somewhat-strong person who looks somewhat-like they workout. I trained an average of about 40 minutes a session, 3 days per week. And surprisingly, rather than feeling weak while lifting, I felt great most days. I attribute this to actually recovering between sessions (2-4 days of rest will do that), rather than training on top of already tired muscles.
I won’t be this busy forever (at least I hope not), but my care-free days of being able to train as often as I wanted, for as long as I wanted, are long gone. I hope others won’t be discouraged when they enter a busy phase in their lives. It might not be perfect, but it is possible to maintain some health and fitness if you have the right approach.